Intertwined in Texas: Mental Illness and Poverty in the Lone Star State

It’s hard to overstate the weight of poverty in the lives of those dealing with mental illnesses. Poverty can both increase the likelihood that a person will suffer from mental health challenges and make it more difficult for those already living with these struggles to pursue recovery.

Many intertwining factors related to poverty create a tangled cycle for those living with mental health conditions. For example, a serious mental illness can make it difficult for a person to hold down a job. As a result of being out of work, they may be unable to afford healthy food or a bus pass to get to a doctor’s appointment, adding extra hurdles in managing their illness. They may lose their housing, further eroding their ability to pursue stability. And, as they lack the resources necessary to take steps to improve their mental health, they remain unable to work and their condition may become an even greater struggle. Continue reading

Overpowering Stigma With Community

For those who live with serious mental health conditions, stigma is constant companion. It follows them like a shadow they can’t escape, defining them by their illnesses in the minds of others and coloring the way they are seen in their communities with misconceptions. It causes them to be avoided or ignored at best, and often leads to discrimination and mistreatment. Continue reading

Six Ways to Help Others Become Aware of Mental Illness

Awareness of the truth about mental illnesses is a first step in learning to come alongside those whose lives are impacted by them. Although understanding and acceptance of these conditions are growing, much progress is required before those dealing with serious mental health challenges are met with support and friendship rather than fear. Below are six ways you can become an advocate for those living with mental illnesses by being able to help others gain awareness. Continue reading

Friendship Rather Than Fear

Rita, second from the left, spending time with some of her friends from The Well at the spring spiritual retreat.

Rita’s struggles with her mental health began nearly four decades ago. “It started when I had a baby,” she says. Her suffering from postpartum depression eventually led to a diagnosis of bipolar disorder—and a long and difficult path of dealing with a serious mental illness. It is with pain that Rita recalls being hospitalized and strapped to a bed due to the condition she’s dealt with for so long. Continue reading

A Well World: Sustaining Service

In my career serving with nonprofits, I have found that one of the most critical elements for success, yet one of the most challenging to lay hold of, is a cadre of volunteers who are both faithful and proactive. At The Well Community we are fortunate to have a host of such people who work alongside us to bring about good for Well Members.

The Well Auxiliary started just a few years ago but has already made a huge difference. Made up of about 50 individuals, the group regularly serves meals, sponsors events and provides support for the activities of The Well. Continue reading

The Gift of Listening

By Catherine Downing and Elizabeth Downing
posted with permission

As the holiday season goes into full swing, we are aware of what comes with our celebrations: lots of activities, generous dessert tables and endless gatherings. It is, indeed, a time to be surrounded by family and friends. Most of us greet this time of the year with open arms and excitement; we look forward to spending extra time celebrating with those closest to us.

However, as we embrace this time of the year, there are those who see the holidays with a much different outlook. Your loved ones living with mental health conditions may view the holiday season as a gauntlet of triggers and with overall dread. For many, interactions with particular family members or having to be on point in large group settings can create feelings of anxiety and need for isolation. Continue reading

A Retreat of Faith and Rest

For many Well Community members, faith provides a place of refuge and strength in the midst of the chaos of mental illness. But, as is the case for most who struggle with serious mental health challenges, getting away to rest and cultivate their faith is a luxury that’s out of reach. The Well Community’s twice-annual overnight spiritual retreats enable them to escape the noise of the city and provide time to reflect and regroup. Continue reading

The Weight of Poverty

For many of the 43.8 million people in America who struggle with mental health difficulties each year, the challenges of life just pile up. Mental illnesses, along with the tragic overlay of stigma, can contribute to other issues that make everyday living a grueling existence. At The Well Community we regularly assist members in confronting addictions and addressing concerns such as medical conditions, homelessness and poverty, any of which, without help, multiplies the sense of confusion and hopelessness.

Amid the poverty and through the challenges, The Well Community offers a place where adults with severe mental health conditions can find support. “We provide a community of hope and healing to these individuals. We give them an opportunity to gain dignity and self-worth, and encourage them to not give up on a system that makes hope seem scarce,” says Executive Director Alice Zaccarello.

Without care from family and friends, or without support from groups like The Well, many with severe mental health issues experience the compounding effects of poverty. They know how poverty cuts a deep gorge into possibilities for recovery. Those who have fallen under the weight of poverty have done so under a complex social system that has limited success in addressing basic needs. Continue reading

Learning Together

Learning Together - Charles and Connie

Well Community Members Charles and Connie

Donna grew up going to church. It is the place she finds companionship when she is lonely and the place where she can be with friends on the weekends. But mostly Donna loves going to Sunday school because there she is reminded of God’s love and keeps learning about Jesus. However, finding a church where she feels comfortable has sometimes been a challenge. Because she deals with mental health difficulties, it has been hard to “fit in.” But at Cliff Temple Baptist Church she’s found just the right class, one specially tailored for members of The Well Community. Continue reading